General Thinking

Ramblings on Perseverance

Steve Jobs is considered one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our times. He was involved in three ventures, Apple, Next and Pixar; of which two can be considered bonafide successes. Next was more of an acqui-hire and we really do not know if it would have been a hit, stand-alone.
But if we were to consider the other two enterprises; Pixar was eventually acquired by Disney making Steve Jobs the largest shareholders in Disney. Apple, well I do not think that I need to detail that out.
Pixar was one of the biggest bets which Steve Jobs made post Apple. For those who love to study pivoting, Pixar made the mother of all pivots going from being a high end computer maker to being a animated movie studio. The value that they were able to unlock through the pivot was extraordinary.
Roll back to 1994, all of the three ventures that I have mentioned above seemed to be on the verge of failure. Apple had not delivered a single hit in a long time (agreed Steve himself was not a part of the company). Pixar had successfully chewed through $50 Million and there was little to show expect for a Disney deal to distribute the movies it made, and it is said that Steve Jobs himself was looking to sell the venture. Next had faced failure upon failure and the entire tech world was certain that the latest operating system which the company had been developing was not going to be any match to Windows.
It was sheer perseverance which pulled these ventures out of the abyss that they had got themselves into. The patience to wait and see through the release of Toy Story in 1995 changed the fortunes of Pixar. Next was bought by Apple and Steve Jobs embarked on a slow an painful march towards revitalising Apple and putting out products that the consumers would love to use and admire.
I write about Steve Jobs because I have read plenty about him; although the same argument can be made for some of the biggest successes in business including Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, Sam Walton, Bill Marriott, and many more… More than anything else, it is pure perseverance that has resulted in these successes.
I feel creating a business is like preparing a dish whose recipe you do not know. So if you add a thought like “Fail Fast” to the mix what is going to be the likely outcome? The idea is to iterate with the absolute minimum ingredients to be able to realise whether a model works or not; ‘Fail Fast’ is by far the worst term coined to describe this. ‘Iterate fast and learn from failure’ should be the actual term that should be used.
Don’t put everything that you have at risk, the first time around.
Develop a business on the basis of firmly grounded insights.
Don’t give up if you fail. If you had to give up, might as well have not started in the first place.
It is not wrong to fall, it is wrong to not get up after the fall. It breaks the human spirit.
General Thinking

Importance of Ignorance to Success

I had a wonderful day today listening to some of the most accomplished people speak about their lives experiences and inspire the rest of us in the audience during the TiE Summit. I loved the talk by Paul Deegan. It was interesting to hear a mountaineer make some of the most insightful points about business.

Paul Deegan used his own story to bring out, how ignorance is needed to be successful.

When Steve Jobs quit Apple he said “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” It was during this time that he got involved with Pixar and changed the animation industry forever and for better. One of the greatest asset that Steve had with Pixar was that he did not know much about the film industry. This fact alone helped him define his boundaries in ways that others within the industry would never have thought. His ignorance was his greatest asset.

When you have a great deal of knowledge about something, you also know the risk of failure. This knowledge alone keeps you from achieving success. You tend to fear failure and avoid taking risks that you would otherwise have taken.

Paul also said that “some of the greatest insights that you get about a product or an industry come from people who do not have the slightest clue about what they are talking”.

I have noticed this often when working with students as a part of the mentoring that we do. They seem to show utter disregard for industry structures, prevailing modus operandi, etc. Their ignorance serves them well. They have the willingness to take great risks and the consequences of failure is not very harsh. This is main reason, I believe more and more businesses should be born out of universities.

I really hope that we can successfully achieve this goal in the days and years to come.

General Thinking

Overestimation – Interesting Insights which I myself just realised!!

So last weekend, we had chosen “Overestimation” as a theme for our Startups Club meeting. We were expecting the meeting to be rather dull since the topic was not something that could generate a great deal of debate. Just as a last minute thing, we decided to throw in a game into the meet.

So the game played out like this. Two teams of 5 members were created. In each team, one member was assigned a leader. The leader from each team was asked to bid. What was on auction was a bunch of exercises: Push-Ups, Lunges, Iron-Man and Balancing on a Leg. The team with the winning bid had to perform the exercise, else, the same was passed onto the other team.

As bidding commenced, the meeting got extremely exciting! More than we could have hoped or dreamt. Each team had won two bids, and each was able to accomplish what they had bid. Hence a tie-break; Sit-Ups was introduced. Bidding went on a different gear, but again the team with the winning bid was able to accomplish the task. At this point, we raised the stakes and asked the losing team if they were willing to do 50% more to take the game away. They took up the challenge and accomplished it!

I realised; often times we over-estimate the work at hand. We really do not know the boundaries of our own capabilities and would not ever come to know unless we are pushed to reach them. People; Intelligent people like to be pushed to reach these boundaries. They may crib while they are being forced to reach these peaks but every time they discover a new peak – They are happy; they feel a sense of accomplishment. This fact alone allows leaders to find extremely talented individuals who would put in their blood, sweat and tears into a job that seems impossible to achieve. What is described by many as Steve Jobs’ “Reality Distortion Field” is just a manifestation of the process of finding this peak.

I myself was a part of a team in my first job where we were worked incredibly hard by our boss. We were expected to put in 18 hour days on weekends. (Especially on weekends) We all used to crib, but we would deliver one way or the other. To date, wherever any of us, who was a part of that team meet up, we fondly remember those days! We were performing at our peak; it may have been tiring but it felt good.

Today, my partner pushes me to achieve things that I would never think possible.

Don’t overestimate the goals which lie ahead of you. Work desperately towards it. You may surprise yourself by achieving it!

General Thinking

Why can’t we appreciate people when they are alive?


A man who was not being talk about much a day before, dies, and the whole world erupts into mourning. They talk about how much he will be missed and about all of his contributions. I do not understand why people cannot be appreciated when they are still alive? Why is it that they must die to be appreciated?

The same happened when Steve Jobs passed away. Even the people who were the cause of all of his agonies were mourning his loss!

This also happened when Michael Jackson died and many other cases.

There is this actor called Matt LeBlanc. After Friends he did a show called Joey; then he went into oblivion. For those of us, who are a part of the “Friends” generation, most loved Joey the most. But he has been forgotten! Now, god forbid, were he to die, I am sure that the entire world will erupt into mourning. Why can’t we appreciate him more?

Matt LeBlanc is just an example. There are so many more people; known as well as not so well know around us. How many of them do we appropriately appreciate? Or do we wait to regret it later?